The discussions that flared up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre have the potential to take the right path towards a healthy medium, with Pope Francis' very Latin-style remark stimulating a constructive approach recently. Even though his statement, "If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," could be perceived at first like the intimidation of a neighborhood bully, he actually touched upon an utmost universal humane principle: You cannot attain your desire by repeating or forcing the things that you want or do not want to occur.
Freedom of expression, beyond any doubt, is one of the most important values that Western civilization developed and institutionalized by creating its philosophical infrastructure for the sake of humanity. It is not surprising that this principle is almost venerated by a major part of Western civilization. Sacred things can always be experienced in cultures with inner integrity and historical depth. Therefore, any culture can have its own sacred values that are handed down from one generation to the other due to their constructive characteristics. However, it cannot be expected that any two cultures deem the same principle sacred and attribute the same meaning to a certain principle. Even though we are living in a rapidly globalizing world and undergoing high mutual interaction, we do not have the same sacred values. Even if some cultures explain some of these values with the same terms, what everyone understands from them may differ. Even the non-egalitarian nature of the globalizing world does not allow the holy understanding of politically, economically and culturally dominant countries to easily spread to other societies. Quite the contrary, cultures that are at the bottom of hegemonic hierarchy can resist such assimilation by withdrawing into themselves and embracing their sacred values strictly. Eventually, most of the time, the sacred values of these resistant societies might become the "flag" or driving force of this resistance.
Today, Muslim immigrants in the Western world are the embodiments of the aforementioned possibilities. We are no longer in the sterilized and protected world of modernism. Furthermore, it is not that easy to protect yourself by sealing the borders and assimilating "foreigners" who, by some miracle, become citizens of your country. It is more likely that such efforts will turn the other way around and yield adverse results, posing a threat against the ground of common life of developed countries. The postmodern world demands different cultures live together within the same administrative and political framework. If you are too accustomed to modernism and take it for granted, and if you think that modernism is a universal and permanent state of existence, it means you are in a great deal of trouble, as it is impossible to manage postmodern societies with the methods of the modern world. There is a need for a management approach that observes cultural heterogeneity and accepts that this multiplicity is permanent.
The Pope's remark becomes more of an issue at this very point. While the postmodern world allows numerous cultures to live together, it also urges multiple holy elements to live together. In such an atmosphere, if any party expects other parties to change their understanding of holiness and deems its sacred values inviolable, this will not yield constructive solutions. If you adopt this assimilative approach that considers yourself the true owner of an established culture or think that you represent a superior culture, you insult the other; now the Pope turns out to be right, and you can expect a punch.
Praising freedom of expression does not prevent this outcome. In fact, nobody is against freedom of expression. But it is a matter of life and death for people to see their sacred values disparaged, a situation that paralyzes living together. It seems it will continue like this for a long time.